Cardinal blesses ‘healing garden’ for sex-abuse victims

June 9, 2011

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(Chip Mitchell/WBEZ)
Chicago Cardinal Francis George chats with survivors and their families Thursday at the garden.

Chicago’s top Catholic official Thursday blessed what his archdiocese is calling its “healing garden” for survivors of clergy sexual abuse.

The garden covers a plot next to Holy Family, a 19th century Chicago church at 1080 West Roosevelt Road, and includes more than two dozen varieties of trees, plants and flowers as well as a 600-pound bronze sculpture of a man, woman and child holding hands, dancing in a circle and smiling. An archdiocese committee that includes four abuse survivors started planning the project more than two years ago.

At a prayer service before giving his blessing, Cardinal Francis George said the garden shows “a permanent voice of victims, a permanent apology on the part of the church, and a permanent commitment by the ministers of the church . . . that we are there” for victims who seek help.

“We hope,” George added, “that, in the midst of this tragedy, there will be the possibility of new life, of resurrection of the heart in such a way that one can continue with new energy and new vigor and to be not trapped in something that brings death but, rather, find new life — with the help of others and the help of God — that will be, itself, a light to the world.”

But the garden isn’t impressing some victims of Catholic clerical abuse.

“Cardinal George and other church officials have empowered and enabled sexual predators to abuse more children,” said Barbara Blaine, president of the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “Instead of being punished for those reckless actions, many have been promoted.”

Blaine says many church officials ought to face criminal investigation.